Investigators exhumed the body of James Otto Earhart from a Hunstville cemetery early Wednesday to collect a DNA sample that would conclusively connect him to the 1981 slaying of a local real estate agent.
At about 7:45 a.m., investigators with the Brazos County Sheriff's Office executed a search warrant signed by 361st District Judge Steve Smith that ordered the exhumation of Earhart's body. The exhumation took place at Blackjack Cemetery in Huntsville, according to the sheriff's office.
Several agencies assisted with the effort, including the Huntsville Police Department and the Department of Public Safety's Texas Rangers, according to a sheriff's office press release sent Wednesday afternoon.
Harrell Gill-King, professor and director of the Institute of Forensic Anthropology at University of North Texas, assisted with the collection of four samples of DNA from Earhart's remains, according to the release. The samples have been sent to Fort Worth to be analyzed.
Kirk said Monday that an analysis of DNA recovered from beneath Virginia Freeman's fingernails provided "clear and convincing evidence" linking James Otto Earhart to the woman's death. Earhart was executed Aug. 11, 1999, for the 1987 kidnapping and murder of 9-year-old Kandy Janell Kirtland of Bryan.
Once completed, the results of the DNA analysis will be compared to the suspect sample found under Freeman's fingernails to "conclusively confirm that James Otto Earhart was the killer," according to the release. Additionally, authorities said the result will be entered in to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) to determine if there are any other cases where Earhart's DNA has been entered in to evidence.
Freeman was killed Dec. 1, 1981, after a man called the real estate agency where she worked and said he was interested in buying a home on Greens Prairie Road, then a rural part of College Station. Freeman's body was found behind the still-locked home later that evening. She had been struck in the head by a blunt object, stabbed repeatedly in the neck and shoulders and had suffered a broken neck as a result of strangulation.
The sheriff's office will notify media outlets once the test results are received, according to the press release.